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Story of the Song | A hit from her heartache - Dawn Penn records, You Don't Love Me (No, No, No), five times

Published:Friday | April 21, 2017 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke

Dawn Penn wrote the words of You Don't Love Me (popularly known as No, No, No, which the vocals begin with and is, along with the title, part of the refrain) when she was experiencing the painful aftermath of love. Responding to The Sunday Gleaner, recently, from Los Angeles, California, where she was visiting for music matters, Penn said, "The lyrics came about because I was in love like everyone else and had a broken heart in the process."

She has sung her hurt five times for four different producers and numerous audiences in the 50 years since You Don't Love Me was first put on tape for Studio One, whose owner, Clement 'Sir Coxson' Dodd, had her do it twice. Penn said that the first recording in 1967, "... had an error. Mr Dodd made me re-record it in 1968. He told me at the 35th anniversary for Studio One in the music business that he found it in his archives."

Twenty-two years later, the song was done in 1990 for Jammys, then in 1992 for Trojan, and 1993 for Steelie and Clevie. The handful proved the charm, Penn saying that "Steelie and Clevie were asked by Mr Dodd to do an album project for Heartbeat, celebrating Studio One's 35 years in the music industry".

"The song charted on the Billboard Charts at number 77 with a red bullet and climbed to 12th. It entered the UK Charts at number nine and went to number three," Penn said.

Through it all, the lyrics have remained consistent, as Penn sings:

"No, no, no

You don't love me and I know now

Cause you left me

And I got no place to go now"

The depth of her emotion is indicated by what Penn would do at her erstwhile lover's bidding:

"Cause if you asked me

I would go down on my knees and pray boy"

Penn said that the musicians on the Studio One recording included Tommy McCook (saxophone), Johnny Moore (trumpet), Lloyd Brevett (upright bass), Roland Alphonso (saxophone), Lloyd Knibb (drums), and Jackie Mittoo (keyboard). There is a significant difference in the song's structure between the Studio One original and the Steelie and Clevie version.

For the Studio One cut, she sings every eight bars of the music, while on the 1993 recording, her voice comes more often, at every four bars, with the refrain of deejay U-Roy's Wake The Town, included in the song. Penn recalls it as a long session, saying, "This was recorded at Mixing Lab at Dumbarton Avenue from night until morning, laying tracks for several artistes ... . We were laying tracks from 10 p.m. until the next day."

She also remembers clearly some of the standout performances of You Don't Love Me, saying, "One of the memorable shows was the BET Awards in 2013 alongside Beenie Man, Elephant Man, Chaka Demus, and Pliers in Los Angeles." There was also an extended run through the Hawaiian islands of Maui, Ohau, and Honolulu, alongside Lauryn Hill and Capleton, plus 10 cities in Japan with Shinehead.

Recording You Don't Love Me for four producers is one thing, but there is the dubplate version, which Penn says she created and which has been used by many sound systems to win clashes.

While the pain is Penn's, she said, "In fact, eight people said they wrote the song when it became a hit." Half-century after being first recorded, the song of hurt has a special place in Dawn Penn's heart as she says, "My favourite recording of the many that I have done would be my signature track, You Don't Love Me (No, No, No).